The Center for the Art of East Asia organizes an annual symposium to bring together new scholarship on East Asian art and visual culture to encourage new perspectives and sharing of methodologies through inter-disciplinary communication and collaboration.

Art and Materiality

February 6-8, 2020
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago

Presented in conjunction with the opening weekend of the major contemporary art exhibition, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China in Chicago, this international symposium was based on topics central to the development and study of art around the world through the lens of materiality. In panel discussions and paper presentations, scholars and artists investigated traditional as well as contemporary art to share perspectives on materials of artistic production. This symposium was organized by the Smart Museum of Art together with the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. The keynote address by Prof. Wu Hung was presented on March 6 in collaboration with the fifth annual US-China Forum organized by UChicago Global, UChicago Arts, and the Smart Museum of Art. The first part of the symposium focused on the role of materials in premodern Chinese art. Scholars examined traditional materials such as glass, silk, hair, paper, ash and smoke. These highlighted new perspectives such as transparency, transformation, and the use of unusual media and approaches to crafting materials. The second part of the symposium considered materiality in contemporary art across the globe with analysis of how new and often unconventional materials impact contemporary art practices and the conservation of artworks.

Buddhist Cave Temples of China: A Sourcebook

May 24-25, 2019
Cochrane-Woods Art Center at the University of Chicago Room 157

Buddhist cave-shrines first appeared on the Indian sub-continent, then quickly spread, along with Buddhism itself, across Asia to China. Over the centuries, Buddhist devotees produced many hundreds of caves with carved sculptural images, ranging in size from the very modest to the colossal. Communities of sponsors, including royalty, believed that image-making and temple building generated merit that could ensure karmic benefits such as protection of the state, good fortune, good health, and good rebirth. Although this important socio-cultural and religious phenomenon has been widely studied by scholars in a range of disciplines, there is no single book in a Western language that provides an overview of the major cave sites together with a critical bibliography. The workshop brought together a group of scholars in the U.S. who have made significant contributions to the research and publishing on Chinese Buddhist cave temples to plan the compilation of an internationally co-authored volume that will serve as a handbook for current scholars and teachers and as a foundational reference for students and future researchers. It included presentations by scholars and roundtable discussion.

Zhihua Temple & Ming-Qing Buddhist Monastic Art and Culture

March 9-10, 2019
University of Chicago Center in Beijing

The Zhihua Temple, located inside the Lumicang Hutong in the east of Beijing, completed in the ninth year of the Zhengtong reign (1444), has been damaged over the centuries but is still one of the best-preserved Ming Buddhist temples in China. In 1961, the Zhihuasi was included in the first list of the national important cultural relics and has undergone several renovations. However, the elaborate wooden ceilings that were sold and taken out of China in the 1930s are now in museums in the U.S. Since 2011, research and digital imaging projects have provided better and more detailed materials for understanding the temple’s history and former appearance. In October 2017, a planning workshop, entitled “Beijing Zhihuasi: A Historical Reconstruction and Future Visions,” was organized by the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago. As the workshop drew a great deal of attention from scholars of various fields, a conference co-organized by the Center for Buddhist Art at Zhejiang University and the School of Architecture of Tsinghua University. The conference at the UChicago Beijing Center invited an international group of expand on the research effort. This has served to better locate the Zhihuasi’s position in the broader picture of the Ming-Qing Buddhist Monastic art and culture. At the same time the CAEA is pursuing a digital reconstruction project of the Zhihuasi in collaboration with The Department of Art, Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Digital Asian Art History Workshop

October 26-27, 2018
Cochrane-Woods Art Center at the University of Chicago Room 157

The use of digital technology in the field of art history is a rapidly growing area that has great potential to enrich the study of cultural artifacts by providing new methods for recording, analysis, and display. Many institutionally based projects for imaging of artworks and cultural sites are actively pursuing ways to archive and share these materials. However, projects are frequently conducted independently and the results not readily disseminated for the benefit of other institutions conducting projects of related kinds. The Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago seeks to promote the use of digital resources for the study of Asian art history and visual culture. It has made use of new digital imaging technology and developed websites and software for teaching and research projects. In order to encourage sharing of digital resources, methodologies, and project results, the CAEA held a workshop at the University of Chicago and invited participants from various institutions including the Freer-Sackler Gallery, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Field Museum of Natural History.

Writing and Picturing in Post-1945 Asian Art

April 21-23, 2017
Regenstein Library Room 122 & Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago

The symposium title refers to the East Asian coupling of writing and picturing (calligraphy and painting). Its intention is to reexamine the cross-medial practices including their materials and tools, that have been thoroughly redefined and expanded from the ancient pair of “ink” and “brush.” Today in new global practices, ink can be spray paint, digital pixels, video imagery, or even performative gestures, while brush to apply them encompasses spray cans, computer software, the camera, the artist’s body, or any other tools deployed by contemporary artists. Participants will discuss future directions in both museological and art-historical studies to bridge the established studies of modernist art history and the newly evolving contemporary art history.

Photography in East Asian Art

May 22-23, 2015

The symposium was organized to explore and reassess the roles of photography in the development of modern East Asian art. Areas of focus included the publication of new kinds of art journals and catalogues, large-scale surveys of ancient monuments and archaeological sites with published photographs, the canonization of famous masterpieces, the interrelationship and mutual influences between photography and art forms, the emergence of art photography as a modern art genre, and the use of photography in the practices of individual during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A volume of collected papers is planned

Refiguring East Asian Religious Art: Buddhist Devotion and Funerary Practice

May 25-26, 2014

Recent research on the interaction of different religious traditions, textual sources and ritual practices in East Asia is related to the production of religious art. The participants in this symposium attempt to contextualize religious images in social and ritual environments. Buddhist and Daoist beliefs and funerary practices for commemoration of the deceased were frequently interrelated in the production, function and form of many works of art. The papers explore the relationship between religious devotion and cult of the dead on historical, cultural, and theoretical levels to show larger historical patterns in the creation of tombs, temples, images and offerings. The publication of a volume of collected papers is forthcoming.

Reconstructing the Concept of Art in Japan

September 6-7, 2014

How are the research, display, and collecting of Japanese art shaped by late nineteenth-century Western terms today? Is it possible to modify or jettison some of these and still be comprehensible in the global field of art history? How does Japanese art history establish distinctions between “Japan,” “Asia,” “the West,” “early modern,” “modern,” and “contemporary”? How do the legacies of Orientalism and Japonisme continue to shape perceptions of Japanese art today? Are the categories of “painting,” “sculpture,” “craft,” and so forth impeding other visions of the history of objects in East Asia?

Workshop–Impossible Purities: Modern East Asian Art and the Question of Artistic Medium

April 28, 2012

Conceptions of medium have long shaped the presumptive fields of modern and contemporary art, but particularly with regard to modern and contemporary art in East Asia. In many respects, the very history of this field might be configured in the lines drawn between oil and ink, figuration and abstraction, and “fine” art and craft. Many of these divisions were enacted to work through evolving definitions of culture, nationality, ethnicity, and race throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Particular media were celebrated for their supposed capacity to authentically, or “purely” embody the sensibilities of a particular nation, culture, or race. This was often in direct odds with the artworks themselves, which were the result of sustained negotiations with diverse, and frequently, divergent, ways of thinking about form.

Workshop–Six Dynasties Material Culture, Arts, Literature, and Ritual

May 26-27, 2012

Nearly thirty years ago, Denis Twitchett attempted to craft a volume of the Cambridge History of China that would cover this seminal period of division between the mighty Han and Tang empires; however, due to the fact that there were not enough specialists in this field, the volume failed to materialize. The Six Dynasties Period (220-589) witnessed long-standing and widespread political fragmentation. Despite the tumultuous circumstances, the arts flourished as never before: lyric poetry reached new heights, calligraphy became an art form in itself, paintings by individuals known as artists are recorded, and stone statuary became a major art formThe art and visual culture of this period was the focus of the three-year “Between the Han and Tang” project organized by Wu Hung and Katherine Tsiang (1999-2001). At the same time, even though ritual and material life maintained strong continuities with the past, they became enriched and invigorated by the amalgamation of both steppe and Chinese influences. However, the scholarship on this period as a whole has been fragmented and has not fully recognized its transformative importance for Chinese history. To fill the gap, Albert Dien, Professor Emeritus of Asian Languages at Stanford University and Keith Knapp, Professor and Chair of the History Department at The Citadel, are working together to create the Cambridge History of China: Volume Two, The Six Dynasties. This is the first meeting of authors to share their research and discuss their topics in the context of the larger volume. It also provides a rare opportunity for the academic community in the Chicago area to participate.

The Screen in East Asia

May 6-8, 2011

As a fixture of daily life and ceremonial culture in East Asia for more than a thousand years, the folding or standing screen deserves is considered from multiple perspectives, including those of archaeology, architecture, literature, art, history, gender, and sociology. As gifts, furnishings, and formats for painting and calligraphy, screens circulated throughout East Asia and between Asia and the West. Yet despite their position at the juncture of different regional and disciplinary perspectives, they were literally relegated to the background, where they functioned as supports for painting or as objects that stood behind important people and things. This symposium explores the complexity of screens as an art form in two and three dimensions, one that frames, divides and conceals and creates spaces and that is produced from a variety of media and materials. Publication of a collection of the papers is forthcoming.

10th-Century China and Beyond: Art and Visual Culture in a Multi-centered Age, Part 1 and 2

May 29-30, 2009, May 14-15, 2010

Looking at Asian Art: A Symposium in Memory of Prof. Harrie Vanderstappen

April 12-13, 2008

Reinventing the Past: Antiquarianism in East Asian Art and Visual Culture, Part 1 and 2

May, 2006, November 3-5, 2006

Papers published in two volumes:
Archaism and Antiquarianism in Korean and Japanese Art
Reinventing the Past: Archaism and Antiquarianism in Chinese Art and Visual Culture

Rethinking the Field of East Asian Art History

May, 2006

Art and Commerce: Circulating Cultures of East Asia

May, 2005

Looking Modern: East Asian Visual Culture from the Treaty Ports to World War II

April, 2004

From Prints to Photography

May, 2003

Between Han and Tang: Art and Archaeology of a Transformative Period (3rd-6th centuries)

A collaborative project involving five academic and research institutions in the U.S. and China that held a series of three conferences and has resulted in the publication of three volumes of research papers.

Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture

April, 1998

Living Icons in Five Traditions: Theories and Practices

January 1998

Ruins in Chinese Visual Culture

May, 1997